Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Trench Work

If you watch Little Orphan Annie or Oliver Twist you get the impression that adoption is a romantic, whimsical fairytale.  A wonderful benefactor swoops in and rescues a child from a life of misery, providing them the desires of their hearts and everyone lives happily ever after.  It's a great feel-good story.  It makes for great movies, books and blog readings.
I'm a sap. I love those kinds of stories. I love watching whimsical movies and reading books about rescued orphans and following blogs during the adoption process.  I love when misery is erased and happy ever after ensues.

But here's the truth.  Adoption isn't whimsical.  It's not romantic.  It's messy.  It involves brokenness and loss.  It's about motherless and fatherless children (despite many of those children having biological mothers and fathers still living). It's about rejection and neglect. It involves torn families and separated siblings.  Adoption is an acknowledgement that a child has lost something precious.

We wish we could say now that John is home, we are living the happy ever after.  We wish.  In reality we are in the hardest part. The trench work.  The part where you take a child who has experienced brokenness and loss and you help them find healing and hope within the security of a family. Our son came to us after spending almost 11 years in an institution.  His entire understanding of how relationships work is based upon his relationships with the children and caretakers in his institution.  It's a warped understanding. It brings with it gross misconceptions and behaviors and attitudes that need to be changed.  This doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't take place without trauma.  It's trench work.  It's exhausting and confusing for everyone involved. On top of that is the language barrier and with it the struggle to communicate to a traumatized child during the hardest adjustment of their lives.

A few years ago I wrote a post titled THE LIST. I wrote it after being in the trenches with Aaron. I'm reading it again as I sit here in the trenches with this newest son of ours. I need the reminders on there.  I need others to read THE LIST who know us in real life so that they have a clue what we are going through. Trench work is not pretty and there have been many days in the last three weeks when we have looked at each other and wondered what we have done.  I've struggled with doubt, fear, insecurity and everything else that comes with parenting a little boy who doesn't speak my language and who is testing every single solitary boundary there is.
His first days out were a nightmare. Our mature talking 10 year old Ukr*I*n who had charmed everyone's socks off all his life became a toddler on steroids with us once we walked him out of those gates. He reverted to baby behavior but with the deviousness of a 10 year old. We are still recovering from that shock. He's smart and manipulative and quick to figure out angles and knows how to work us both and is so darn cute and desperate for us to love him despite his crazy behavior right now.
 We have had to come to terms with the reality that right now he needs us to see him as a toddler and treat him accordingly.  We've had to set strict boundaries of what he can and can't do. He needs constant supervision.  He is learning all about time-in on Mama's chair next to her computer. He is learning that no in this family truly means no. He is learning that here in our house he takes turns, shares, sometimes loses and cannot have everything he wants. He is learning that if he turns his nose up at the food we provide then he can't have ice cream and Oreos 15 minutes later. These are HARD lessons!!

It's not easy. Not for John and not for everyone else in the family. In the same way that a newborn baby changes all the family dynamics, adoptions affect family relationship across the board. We are struggling to come to terms with our new normal. We haven't figured it all out yet which makes this phase a bit messy and frustrating for everyone.  Aaron is feeling the change probably the hardest as he is having to share his favorite Papa in the world.  He likes order and routine and adding a new brother has been anything but orderly.
Despite everything though, we love our newest son who was God's choice for our family and who is going to push us beyond what we thought we could do. He's a precious boy, ornery but precious. I love holding him in my lap and cuddling him and he soaks up those times. I love holding his hand when we are walking together and I love when he reaches out to be picked up and held.  We are committed to go through thick and thin with him behavior issues, medical issues and all!! 

He's very much worth digging in the trenches!
For those who know us in real life, please read THE LIST. For those who are themselves in the trenches, you should read it too.  If you are adopting, or thinking of adopting please check it out!


  1. Sister i just read the list although the time is not now, i think you and other families shoud write a support book for post care after adoption! I hear all the time people do not undertanding i sure as heck dont! I have two bio kids who are small. And its hard so i can t imagine the dynamics you have worked with. Xoxo dear one

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  3. Amazingly insightful...thank you for writing this. We are in the process of submitting paperwork for an adoption, and no amount of information is too much for us at this point. Thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom. Lots of love to you and your sweet little boy during this difficult time.

  4. Lots of prayers for your family

  5. Julia I don't know how I ever missed the list! I sent the link to our Social Worker to read. IT IS AMAZING! It should be page 1 at Reeces Rainbow!
    I can easily see that John could wrap me around his finger. ;o) I've had many kids with this talent. And I have cried many tears when they tried to use this against, me but only ended up hurting themselves. Yes they are all worth the FIGHT! (((HUGS))) We are all praying!

  6. I get it. We adopted a child 7 years ago, out of trauma, and we are still daily dealing with the ramifications of her past orphanage life. I'd be shocked if you didn't have major issues to work through.

  7. Reading the list again and praying for all 6 of you. Much Love!! Hugs! : )

  8. This list is amazing!!!
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. So glad you understand how needy he is. So many parents don't seem to "get it". We were blessed with a couple of very speedy, perfect "happily even after" adoptions. I am not sure that made the next couple of difficult ones easier or harder. Orphanage life was not really the issue, though. The ones who were in the orphanage were the lucky ones (their orphanages were really excellent in many ways), but abuse by parents and random men passing through....I'm still learning "The List" on that..... The main message is the same, though - COMPASSION and EMPATHY.....and true, self-sacrificing love. (easier said than done, but oh, so worth it)

  10. Thinking of you and praying for all! The trenches is such a hard place. I thought we would be out of it after 4 years, but still find us there more often than not. So I remind myself that God knew what he was doing when He chose us to be Matthew's parents. And of course, His plan for your family is perfect, too. :-) They are worth it - even in the trench moments.

  11. Praying for all of you, Julia. We are amazed by the grace God has given you and Rob to care for these two precious boys. Watching Aaron thrive under your love has been a humbling privilege for us. We can't wait to meet John!


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